A simple meal of bottlegourd and arhar daal curry, pulao and sooji halwa was served to the 5,000 wedding guests.
The gift items had a wrought iron double bed with a mattress and pillows, a 5 litre water camper, plastic bathroom accessory, a red coloured suitcase, ceramic dinner set, 180 litre refrigerator, steel cupboard, set of steel utensils, a pair of plastic chairs, sewing machine and a fan.
As many as 55 sets of these items were neatly stacked in both sides of the road. Right on top of the stack of gifts was a Quran, covered in a bright red box, on all of them except three sets of trousseau which were Hindus.
These not so elaborate wedding arrangements were a part of a not so usual group marriage where three Hindu couples and 52 Muslims exchanged wedding vows in a Hindu dominated part of Saraspur on Sunday.
While the 52 brides were decked up in similar red coloured brightly embroidered salwar kameez, intricate designs of mehandi on their hands and wearing matching jewellery eagerly waiting for their registration numbers to be called for the wedding ceremony to be performed by the Muslim priest at the mosque, their grooms in contrary were in plain white kurta pyjama with a skull cap and the registration numbers hanging from their neck.
Alongside, in the same compound only divided by a small wall is an old Mahadev Temple where the priest was busy performing Hindu rituals for three couples seated side by side while their relatives took seats at the back. Nothing except their attire made them stand out at the ceremony when these 110 newly wedded were seated in the front rows of a mass assembly in the community ground that was also right beside the mosque and the temple. Dressed in red sarees while their grooms were in light grey suits with red and white turbans bordered with golden embellishments.
“We had planned couples from Sikh and Christian communities too but somehow that could not materialise. Also due to this inauspicious time of Holi not many Hindu families turned up though they registered for the wedding. The gesture is only a reflection of the society where we live in harmony with our Hindu brothers and sisters,” said Maulana Habib Ahmed the organiser and president of Jamia Faizanul Quran, a trust in existence for than five decades in Saraspur.
“Being an inter-caste marriage, both our families did not approve of our wedding. But then we learnt about this group marriage ceremony of different communities from a calendar distributed at our office, we knew this was our chance,” said Mahesh Waghela (26) who married Nisha Patel (25), both from Vadodara and working in an international tour company.
Another Hindu couple had a different love tale to share. “Once we were both on a bike trip when we noticed a board outside a hospital announcing this interesting event. Our families knew about our relationship so it was not that difficult to convince them for this mass wedding,” said Viral Chauhan (21) and his newly wedded wife Dimple Prajapati (18), both from nearby area of Dariyapur in Ahmedabad.
The couples were from various districts, including Nadiad, Anand, Mehsana, Kalol, Navsari, Ankleshwar and Bharuch. Every couple had a permissible limit of 50 relatives; 25 from each side as guests for this mass marriage.
More than 500 organisers who were helping in the mass wedding had distributed the registration forms in all nearby religious and public places.
The third Hindu couple Babli (19) from Pali in Rajasthan and Rakesh Berwa (26) who is originally from Rajasthan but settled in Ahmedabad for some years now said that there was an arranged marriage and the first of a mass marriage in their family as they had their share of meals.
21-year-old Heena Qureshi was eagerly waiting for her relatives as she was the only left for the wedding. “The witnesses from my side have not reached yet so I am left out,” she said. While her would-be-groom 22-year-old Farhan Rahim seated with other grooms seemed to be more relaxed. “It was because of Heena’s family issues that our families decided to participate in this mass marriage,” he said. Heena lost her father two years back while her mother passed away three months back.
Though all irrespective of Hindu or Muslim believed that a mass marriage involving all communities is far better than in a personalised marriage ceremony.
While the couples had pre wedding functions, including mehandi and haldi ceremonies at their homes, for the wedding they only spent Rs 50 as registration fee which would too be refunded to them later.